Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Business of Yours Is it Anyway?

Recently I was helping a friend who is nearing retirement put together information to file for Social Security benefits. Although I don't know any more about it than he does I have a few more computer skills, and it seemed that doing it online was going to streamline the process.

That turned out to be wrong. He eventually called the local office of the Social Security Administration and after a long time on hold he spoke to a woman who interviewed him and sent forms through snail mail. I guess they figure if you're 65 years old you can't use a computer. While that may be true of many, it's not true of all, and they should make it a little easier to do this online if that's your choice. But that's just the beginning of what I learned that ticked me off about the government.

She asked about marriages, divorces, children, etc. Had he ever been divorced. Yes. Was he married to his former spouse for more than ten years. No.

Apparently if you were married for ten years of longer, your former spouse may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on your earnings record when he/she reaches retirement age. This is if you earned more and he/she is not married to someone else at the time. That does not diminish the amount of benefits you collect, however.

While going over the documents he got by snail mail, he began to question whether they had been married more than ten years. The marriage ended over 30 years ago. Who remembers these things, he said. If he was a woman, you know he would remember the time, day and date of the divorce but men aren't wired that way.

After much searching and aggravation he came up with the Petition for Divorce. They had divorced after 11 years of marriage. Obviously the people at SSA would have to be notified.

As I looked over his shoulder at this one legal sheet of yellowed paper that had been folded into quarters, the information obviously typewritten, I noticed that she was granted the divorce on grounds of "extreme cruelty." Having known this friend for a few years and knowing that he could never have been guilty of "extreme cruelty" in any situation, never mind against a woman he shared children with, I was shocked by this.

What is that about? I asked. He said that was the only grounds under which you could get a divorce back then. There was no dissolution of marriage as a result of irreconcilable differences even if the divorce was amicable and consensual. When I was divorced several years after they were, it was on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Very neat and clean. No one accusing anyone of "cruelty."

To make it worse, the last line of the details of the Petition of Divorce dealing with child custody, child support, house, etc., said that he...."be permanently enjoined from molesting, annoying or interfering with her." That seemed especially nasty language considering the decision to divorce was mutual.

Talk about extreme cruelty. The courts should have no business in determining who does and who doesn't divorce anyway, especially when it's something both parties agree to.

14 comments:

Michele said...

Anytime you have to work with the government just plan for it to take twice as long and cause 5 times the headache.

Katherine said...

How horrible to have such language on a divorce paper, one that is public record. Ugh.

Just Breathe said...

When I got divorced back in '82 it was irreconcilable differences. I do remember when my attorney said
"you made it 10 years so you will get part of his SS!"

~Kristen~ said...

That language is atrocious! Leave it to the government...grrr!

Bethany said...

Wow, that's so crazy! I wouldn't even have thought of that. 10 Years is the rule, huh. Sad, the words they used :(

mama-face said...

Wow. What an interesting story. Maybe some things are better now than the good old days.

A 2 Z said...

Hi Sandy,

I remember the "good old days" not so great for people trying to get a divorce. The church frowned upon it and would even go so far as excomunicating (spelling ?) them! Imagine if you are a devout catholic but your spouse is abusive. Yes, the good old days.... I'm back to blogging. My old Dell was attacked by a virulent virus and it took a while to get up and running. I will go visit your new "wow" enterprise now. Bye. Anne-Marie

Laoch of Chicago said...

Many states had a fault based divorced system so the convention at the time was for one party to admit infidelity or "mental cruelty" so that the divorce could go forward in uncontested cases.

Rachel Cotterill said...

In England, as I understand it, you can get a divorce much more quickly if someone is willing to admit to (e.g.) adultery. Just not getting on any longer makes it harder/slower. I don't really understand it :(

phd in yogurtry said...

Those old laws help explain why so few people divorced "way back when." Maybe not so much because married people were more honorable but because divorce was so toxic. Thankfully, our divorce laws have matured over the years.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

Anytime the government gets into your business you're in big trouble. Re the comment on The Catholic Church and divorce laws - The Church and the State have always been separate. Believe me it's much harder to get an annulment through the church than it is to get a divorce through the state. Also, an annulment can only be obtained on certain terms. One of those terms actually is cruelty or abuse. The Church would never suggest you should stay married to someone if there is abuse involved. When you marry in the church you are thoroughly counseled before hand. Obviously this varies but the idea is that marriage is taken very seriously. The actual vows, etc., are separate from anything to do with the government. For instance: a good friend of mine used to work with Mother Theresa. Later, when she married, due to unforeseen circumstances she was first married legally by the state. She and her husband could not actually consumate their marriage until they said their vows to God and it was recognized by the church. I was stunned and I asked her how the heck they managed that (it took almost a year before they could be married in the church because they wanted Mother Theresa to be there to bless them). She explained to me how
important to them and how different from a state sanctioned marriage, a church marriage is. Once you understand the spiritual side and the importance of the graces received through vows to your God, it makes it easier to comprehend the whole deal. Anyway, that's a whole other blog. At least if the church is in your business it's because you want them to be. It's a personal choice. The government — a whole other thang man.

croneandbearit said...

Having gone through a divorce and having watched as my husband went through a divorce, this post truly hits home with me. Why can't we simply dissolve the marriages and make the appropriate considerations for children and be done with it? In my case I had to go through this agonizing process in front of a judge explaining how my husband had abandoned our marriage - it was humiliating and patronizing and made me feel less than worthy - no irreconcilable differences then. My husband had much the same issues when he was divorced - it just becomes so ugly when you are forced by the judicial system to point fingers and then you start believing the words said out of hurt and anger. Well I've said enough I think. What your friend went through was just plain sad.

A 2 Z said...

I just went on WOW. Good work Sandy and Pam! Very interesting articles! Do you have any more photos or stories on SA?

Slamdunk said...

No argument here. The Mrs. had to deal with the Social Security Admin. on an issue with one of our little ones, and though they were nice, it was a time-consuming snail-mail process.

 

Blog Design By Lindsey Joy Design © All Rights Reserved.